Author Topic: The BNSF Red River Valley Sub  (Read 410 times)

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Rivet Miscounter

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The BNSF Red River Valley Sub
« on: May 29, 2020, 12:43:46 AM »
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This thread will be part planning, part thinking out loud, and part repository for applying the mountains of research materials I have toward some meaningful effort to build a model railroad.   The overall goal is to model some portions of the BNSF Red River Valley Sub and possibly adjacent Wichita Falls sub in the north-central, northwest, and Panhandle regions of Texas.  If I had to pick one site as a primer to this stretch of railrading, it's here: http://www.edisaurus.com/rr/rrv05/index.htm .   This ties up the general timeframe I'm looking at, the types of trains involved, the general operations, the scenery, and the rolling stock all in a nice little bow.  I'll expound on every aspect later, but this tells a very good picture story of things.

(As an aside, the subject matter will seem familiar to some of you who've seen me ramble on across various forums over the years, but I'm going to try and not dwell on the false starts and lack of real progress as it is both depressing and unnecessary.  I'm sure it will come up as the discussion progresses from time to time, but I'm trying to have that "defensive back" mentality...if you get burned for a touchdown you just have to jump back in and forget it and keep applying your craft.  No sense in dwelling on it.   But, I did want to at least address it.)

One interesting twist is that this layout will be Z-scale.  The rest of the design criteria is pretty up in the air right now, but it will likely end up residing in a 10x12 room with 3x6 closet.   I want to get more into a more generic list of givens and druthers before getting too caught up in the space, but just to give you some frame of reference that is probably the space I will have to work with.

So more to come, but I'll leave a parting shot for inspiration...

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Doug

Rivet Miscounter

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Re: The BNSF Red River Valley Sub
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2020, 11:03:50 AM »
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The BNSF Red River Valley Subdivision runs from Valley Jct (MP 118.4) just outside of Wichita Falls, TX northwest (railroad west) to Amarillo, TX (MP 335.7).  The line is part of an important section of railroad for BNSF, trackage that was originally part of the Fort Worth & Denver Railway.   The FW&D--affiliated with the CB&Q and BN until being officially rolled into BN in 1983-- ran from Fort Worth to Texline in the Texas Panhandle where it transitioned to sister Colorado & Southern.  The line itself is heavily agricultural, but the interesting part of it lies in its long haul/"bridge" traffic. 

The roots of this traffic began in the 70's when the line became part of BN's coal conveyor between the Powder River Basin and south Texas coal plants.  Then, an entirely different aspect of modern railroading took hold post-BNSF, when the line began hosting West Coast to Dallas/Fort Worth intermodal--grabbed off the Transcon at Amarillo.   Of note, UP has trackage rights on the line as well, and among other things runs a regular train between Fort Worth and Wichita Falls.

From a carload standpoint, the RRV Sub is more operationally interesting than the Wichita Falls sub, with grain being king, a (now defunct) power plant, a gypsum operation at Acme (near Quanah), etc.  A branch line at Quanah into Oklahoma provides some traffic/ops as well.  The scenery is arguably "better", with the railroad skirting the northern fringes of Palo Duro Canyon, the crossing of the Red River, etc.  (the LBJ National Grasslands surrounding Decatur Hill can make an argument against this, for sure.   Make no mistake though...Texas is not Colorado in the scenery dept.)

The Wichita Falls Sub runs from Valley Jct southeast to Saginaw, TX/North Fort Worth.  This was the railroading of my youth.  My hometown (Bowie) is about halfway between Wichita Falls and Saginaw and my grandparents lived right off the ROW at a siding called Fruitland just southeast of Bowie.  I lived about 4 blocks away from the line and less than two miles from the diamond with the RI/MKT (OKKT)/UP.   

The interesting part of this portion of the WF Sub lies about 15 miles south of Fruitland at Alvord, a small town that sits at the foot of "Decatur Hill", the ruling grade for the line and one of the top 10 grades encountered by coal trains on the entire trip between the PRB and south Texas.  At times this was an active helper district with power stationed at Alvord and dropped at Decatur or Herman siding on the top side.  Aside from a few small volume industries at Bowie and Decatur, there is nothing on this line other than passing sidings once you leave Wichita Falls until trains are approaching Fort Worth.

The kings of industrial switching would be the larger cities along the line: Saginaw, Amarillo, and to a much lesser extent Wichita Falls.   Saginaw and Amarillo present challenges with respect to cost and space that make me pause at including them, and as you'll see I really want the ops to be mostly centered around the mainline aspect...getting trains past each other.  I'm not counting anything out just yet though.   There is also the line northwest of Amarillo and into New Mexico which also has attractive components for a model railroad.  My love affair with the Trinchera Pass area near the NM-CO border is problematic in this equation, for sure.  I expect I'll use some modelers license to bring elements of all of it into play in the space I have available, or at very least earmark some things for inclusion when/if a larger space comes available.

Wichita Falls is an interesting and very model railroad-able town.  it doesn't have a TON going for it industry-wise, but with some minor embellishment it holds up as a nice piece of the puzzle.   It has a small-medium yard, some grain ops, a few large industries, and an interchange with short line Wichita, Tillman, and Jackson.  I'll go into more detail about Wichita Falls but suffice to say it is probably-bordering-solidly going to be featured.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2020, 11:16:18 AM by Rivet Miscounter »
Doug

coldriver

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Re: The BNSF Red River Valley Sub
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2020, 03:40:48 PM »
+1
Good to see you motivated to get something going Doug!  If I was going to model the Red River Sub I'd definitely include Quanah/Acme, Wichita Falls, and maybe that area where the line crosses the Prairie Dog Fork.  If you had an excessive amount of tanks cars you could model that large private car shop south of Wichita Falls - that thing always seems to have hundreds of cars on hand!  When did they stop shipping cotton off the Red River Sub?  Seems like those big cotton warehouses look great and would be fairly easy to build.

Rivet Miscounter

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Re: The BNSF Red River Valley Sub
« Reply #3 on: Yesterday at 12:22:03 AM »
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Hey Dean, thanks for the comments.

As we've discussed, my real goal is to model passing sidings and have the 15-20 trains per day work past each other.   But, I recognize that some industry ops is nice too...how much of that can be done in Z without the frustration level rising is the issue.  But in my limited experiments it isn't drastically different than N and I'm gonna give it a go.

As weird as it sounds to anyone knowledgeable about the FW&D, there is really no good reason to model Childress.  A massive yard and shops in the 50's is now a ghost town of a maintenance materials storage area.   WF and Quanah are definitely the most interesting cities, and I think if I embellished some I could have some decent ops outside of the dispatcher.  Short of being a list of G's & D's, I'll throw out some ideas about features that could be modeled.  (EDIT: I split these out across multiple posts so that I can elaborate on each in a more organized manner.)

Going east to west:
1. Decatur Hill
2. Bowie/Alvord
2b. Dickworsham Siding
3. Wichita Falls (BNSF)
4. Wichita Falls (WT&J)
5. Harold/Oklaunion
6. Vernon/Pease River
7. Chillicothe
8. Quanah/Acme
9. Goodlet/Estelline/Red River Crossing
10. Memphis/Clarendon Morph
11. Palo Duro Canyon Embellishment
« Last Edit: Yesterday at 10:46:01 PM by Rivet Miscounter »
Doug

Rivet Miscounter

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Re: The BNSF Red River Valley Sub
« Reply #4 on: Yesterday at 12:38:29 AM »
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1. Decatur Hill
   a. Fairly scenic, and if I had the stones to run the helper it would be interesting ops-wise.
   b. Considering making this a Tehachapi Loop style attack on the hill.
   c. Cons would be that it would force me to include Decatur and likely some morph of Alvord and Bowie on the west end, neither of which are particularly interesting from the ops perspective.
   d. I could roll Decatur into a Decatur/Herman siding morph too. Herman is a very visible, very busy passing siding right before entering the Fort Worth area.  (and for those keeping score...yes THAT Decatur, home of Dean Ferris' Oregon Joint Line!)
   e. Industries/Features: (Decatur) Metal grain elevator (defunct 80s); Poco Graphite (defunct 90s)

2. Bowie/Alvord
   a. "Bovord" would have the helper, and i could embellish the industries some at Bowie to get some work there.
   b. Could also feasibly present the aggregate industry as a spur from Alvord south to Chico. (this actually existed at one point a hundred years ago)
   c. Diamond (dummy) with UP at Bowie would be interesting.
   d. Industries/Features: Manned helper; Drilling Mud Company; Metal Grain Elevator (defunct 80s); Peanut Dryer/Elevator (defunct 70s); Team track (grain/etc) (defunct 90s); Propane (defunct 70s); Refinery (fantasy, proposed in 2010's); Plastic pipe company (fantasy, proposed 2010s)

2b. Dickworsham Siding
   a.  I feel compelled to mention this passing siding, partially just because it's such a badass name.
   b.  But, it also stands adjacent a ranch, commonly inhabited by camels.  To work it in would be magnificant.
   c.  And, it actually has some manner of scenic element with some plateau like features and the signature red dirt of the area.
« Last Edit: Yesterday at 10:38:48 PM by Rivet Miscounter »
Doug

Rivet Miscounter

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Re: The BNSF Red River Valley Sub
« Reply #5 on: Yesterday at 10:39:33 PM »
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3. Wichita Falls (BNSF)
   a. Very modelgenic city and decent operations (especially if you embellish some)
   b. Interchange traffic with the Wichita, Tillman, & Jackson/Union Pacific.
   c. Industries/Features: Industry on southeast side of town (defunct 2000s?); Large metal grain elevator on SE side; ex-MKT line now functions as super long passing siding; twin highway bridges w/ MKT/FW&D lettering still in tact; bridges over irrigation channel coming into yard; BNSF Yard ~11 tracks, team track, power track; Concrete elevator adjacent yard (defunct 80s?); RR museum adjacent yard; Attebury concrete elevator on spur south of yard (defunct 2000s?); wye on spur south of yard; scrap dealer adjacent Attebury elevator (defunct 2010s?); parallel spurs off of south spur into downtown to various? (defunct 70s?); interesting downtown backdrop; Twin bridges over Wichita River; Cement plant (defunct 70s?); Small metal elevator (defunct 80s?); Plastics industry near Valley jct; Vetrotex Certainteed (defunct 2000s); Eagle Railcar (replaced V-C but would model concurrent/adjacent); Beverage distributor (defunct 80s); McNeil Industrial park (Multiple, defunct 90s); Cryovac (Iowa Park) plastics;
   d. Photos
https://www.flickr.com/photos/kb5wk/14440344174 TXUX Coal train on the siding southeast of Wichita Falls with two very new SD70ACe's on April 12, 2006.
 
4. Wichita Falls (WT&J)
   a. Good source of carloads, mostly grain
   b. Small Yard ~5 tracks but good industry north of town
   c. Industries/Features: Yard and 2-track enginehouse; Scrap dealer adjacent yard; spur to Sheppard AFB (defunct 90s); Industrial area with 4 large industries including PPG plant (defunct 2010s mostly); Large metal elevator complex (Burk); Concrete elev (Burk)
   d. Photos
https://www.flickr.com/photos/moodykb/25301162921/
Doug

Rivet Miscounter

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Re: The BNSF Red River Valley Sub
« Reply #6 on: Yesterday at 10:40:02 PM »
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5. Harold/Oklaunion
   a. Harold has small metal elevator, could be combined into scene
   b. Oklaunion has coal fired power plant railroad served
   c. Industries/Features: small metal elevator; rotary dump coal power plant; spur for bad order coal cars.

6. Vernon/Pease River
   a. Large concrete grain elevator complex
   b. Industries/Features: Farmers Co-op/Vernon Compress; Midwestern Mud; Bolton grain company; BNSF/elevator power stationed there; Solvay USA plant; Tyson plant (not currently rail served); crossing of Pease River northwest of town

7. Chillicothe
  a. Industries/Features: former ATSF interchange (defunct, line removed); passing siding into town; large elevator complex with balloon track for earthworms.
« Last Edit: Today at 12:31:49 AM by Rivet Miscounter »
Doug

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Re: The BNSF Red River Valley Sub
« Reply #7 on: Yesterday at 10:40:26 PM »
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8. Quanah/Acme
  a. Former Quanah, Acme, & Pacific/Frisco interchange (now branch) into the heart of Oklahoma grain country
  b. Large Gypsum mine at Acme just north of town
  c. Good source of traffic (grain) and some reroutes to Tulsa/Memphis historically
  d. Industries/Features: metal elevator downtown; small yard 6-7 tracks adjacent former ? industry; Gypsum mine/plant...lots of centerbeam cars everywhere; picturesque twin bridges over arroyo, with FW&D and QA&P lettering.

9. Goodlet/Estelline/Red River Crossing
  a. Industries/Features: modern, in-use metal elevator at Goodlet; Estelline is town/passing siding along red river right before bridge; river crossing is low-relief, long bridge over glowing crimson water.
  b. Photos
https://www.flickr.com/photos/bnsfds/17070775279 BNSF train GCOKBNT921C crosses the Red River at Estelline, Texas.  Photo By Steve Grabman
https://www.flickr.com/photos/bnsfds/17256442181 Two of BNSF's C44-9W's lead loaded grain train GCOKBNT921C across the Red River on the former FW&D main at Estelline, Texas.  Photo By Steve Grabman
https://www.flickr.com/photos/joemcmillan118/16555752970 Burlington Northern caboose 10537 tags along behind a Smithers Lake coal train on the Red River bridge at Estelline, Texas, August 14, 1985, This trackage––formerly the FW&D main line between Amarillo and Fort Worth, Texas––is now BNSF's Red River Valley Subdivision.  Photo by Joe McMillan (THIS is why they call it the RED River)
Doug

Rivet Miscounter

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Re: The BNSF Red River Valley Sub
« Reply #8 on: Yesterday at 10:40:49 PM »
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10. Memphis/Clarendon Morph
  a.  Memphis is cotton HQ in the area; only one spur serves huge complex and doesn't look in use at this point and I don't ever recall seeing any cars there.  Would model it as if it were active though.
  b.  Area between Memphis and Clarendon is the most scenic in the area, being at the upper regions of Palo Duro canyon.   Would likely move elevator from Clarendon to Memphis and really go overboard with Canyon area to be the end of the layout
  c. Industries/Features: scenic bridge over aroyo on southeast side of Memphis; peanut dryer/elevator; cotton warehouses; small concrete elevator in Clarendon.
  d. Photos
http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=2507933 Good shot of Clarendon's elevator in the background and the DPU of a typical eastbound BNSF coal train heading to a south Texas power plant.

11. Palo Duro Canyon Embellishment
  a. Would go full-on Abo Canyon on this area...ok perhaps not to that extent, and would still model consistent rock features, etc.   But very much the wild wild west part of the layout to get *some* scenic eye candy.
« Last Edit: Yesterday at 11:16:52 PM by Rivet Miscounter »
Doug